- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Accusing Republicans of calculating that “if I fail, they win,” President Obama said Wednesday that Congress must let tax cuts for the wealthy expire at the end of this year, arguing the government cannot balance its books without that revenue.

In a stump-style speech in Cleveland, Mr. Obama blasted the GOP for sitting “on the sidelines” while he and congressional Democrats have pushed to pump money into the economy and to clean up what he said were the excesses of the Bush administration that led to the economic downturn.

And Mr. Obama directly took on House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who in his own speech in Cleveland late last month challenged Mr. Obama to join together in a bipartisan effort to cut spending and extend all the Bush-era tax cuts.

“There was just the same philosophy we already tried for the last decade — the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place:  cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations,” the president said.

He has proposed three major steps he said would help boost jobs: Pouring more taxpayer funds into road and rail infrastructure projects, making the research and development tax credit permanent and speeding up tax write-offs for firms when they purchase equipment.

But his infrastructure proposal faces a precarious future as lawmakers in both parties are wary of additional spending ahead of November’s elections. Indeed, one of Mr. Obama’s key allies, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, already announced he would oppose the measure, arguing that infrastructure projects can be funded through last year’s $814 billion Recovery Act, and the president has not gotten any support from Senate Republicans, who hold enough votes to block action.

On the Bush-era tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of the year, Mr. Obama said only the ones that apply to individuals making less than $200,000 and families making less than $250,000 should be extended. Mr. Obama said Republicans are holding those middle class tax cuts hostage by insisting that all the tax cuts be extended.

With elections less than two months out, Mr. Obama sought to draw a stark line between Democrats and Republicans, and said the political battles on Capitol Hill seem to center around battling him, not improving the country.

“They’re making the same calculation they made just before the inauguration: if I fail, they win,” he said. “Well, they might think this will get them where they need to go in November, but it won’t get our country where it needs to go in the long run.”